Georgian College was the place to be for food lovers and entrepreneurs on Thursday and Friday.
Food Entrepreneurs: Building Ontario Innovation One Product at a Time was a two-day conference at the Barrie campus sponsored with a $10,000 contribution from the County of Simcoe.
"The county is taking a more active role in supporting our entrepreneurs and businesses by encouraging training, idea sharing and fostering innovation," said Warden Gerry Marshall.
The event included panel discussions by successful food entrepreneurs and industry experts on topics such as innovation, human resource management, food safety culture, overseeing and executing strategy, product idea viability, collaborating for growth, and more. Attendees will participate in seminars, networking opportunities and hear keynote presentations from industry leaders.
Dozens of vendors set up booths on Frday, to share their wisdom, details about their business and free samples to showcase their businesses.
The first all-Ontario food conference was organized by the Agri-food Management Institute, in partnership with the County of Simcoe, Georgian College and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, and Food and Rural Affairs.
Marci Prebianca traveled from Hamilton to connect with potential customers and showcase her unique baked goods.
“There has been a lot of education opportunities for us here, and I have been able to meet up with other businesses in our local area,” she said.
Marci's Bakery is a wholesale business that sells a variety of more than two dozen goods to over 40 locations in the province including Goodness Me in Barrie.
“Everyone was asking for gluten free, vegan and no sugar,” she said.
As a result, Marci produced a line of baked goods that avoid the two nine food allergens and provide “treats for all.”
While the business has grown quickly, she still takes the time to grind sunflower seeds into flour by hand.
“Because we never use eggs, dairy, or any other animal product - our entire line of products is suitable for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant or have an egg allergy,” she said.
"Everyone can feel safe eating these treats, and they are really good ... even if you don't have an allergy."
Marci’s Bakery was one of the vendors in the regional showcase of flavours from across Ontario Regional showcase of flavours from the regions of Ontario.
Georgian College students volunteered their time to man the booths.
“The quality of local food is better,” said Michael Caruso, as he prepared samples of potato soup and turkey and vegetable chili produced with local ingredients.
“When you by local, you really notice the difference,” he said. “The food is fresher and it really tastes better. Local farmers are putting money into producing crops that are organic and the quality is much better. Hopefully people who are sampling the food here today are seeing that local is the way to go."